On Oct. 20, 1925, Goodman Theatre opened its doors for a dedication ceremony. Eighty-nine years later, the theater troupe celebrated with a gala that was nothing short of spectacular.
Held at The Standard Club in downtown Chicago, a full-course dinner was presented with speeches from some of the people that have made the theater such a success over the years. Andre De Shields, from last year's The Jungle Book, made the crowd laugh while author David Henry Hwang moved listeners with his words. A video was sent in from past production The Iceman Cometh's Brian Dennehy congratulating the Goodman along with a touching letter from comedian Carol Burnett about the passing of her daughter, who once did a show with her at the Goodman. Both were unable to attend with shows currently running in New York.
Singer Heather Headley closed out the night with a incredible rendition of the Lion King's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"
During the reception, Windy City Times spoke with talented actress and writer Tanya Saracho, who is known for cable shows Girls and Looking. Her play El Nogalar premiered at the Goodman in 2011.
Windy City Times: Hi, Tanya. Tell our readers how you wound up doing Chicago theater.
Tanya Saracho: went to school in Boston. Afterwards I was worried if I went to New York that I would starve and had not planned on L.A. so I picked Chicago. I had never been here. I arrived with two bags and I got an apartment that week. I am still living in that apartment currently. It is my Chicago home. I came because I heard about Steppenwolf. I started my own theater company after arriving.
WCT: How did the writing gig happen?
Tanya Saracho: At Boston University I acted and wrote all the time so when I came here I continued. This city lends itself to the people who do multiple things. It just worked out. In my theater company I was acting, writing, directing, producing and doing all of it.
The Goodman gave me my first commission as a playwright. It was my first seal of approval and meant I was a legitimate playwright. This was back in 2006. People around the country noticed that the Goodman gave me a commission.
WCT: You must have a hundred gay friends after the success of HBO's Looking.
Tanya Saracho: I feel like I only have gay friends. I am queer myself. I have so many gay and trans people in my life. The other day I went to a dinner party with just straight people. I hadn't been around 13 straight friends like that in a long time. I didn't know what to talk about. It was so weird because I am in that Looking room so much. I even think I am a gay man, which is crazy! Everything we deal with and all of the characters I write are involving gay boys.
WCT: Did you see Looking star Raul Castillo in Death and the Maiden at Victory Gardens?
Tanya Saracho: Of course. I have known Raul since we were 14 years old. He was my first high school boyfriend.
WCT: That's not a bad catch!
Tanya Saracho: Well ... he is great. He's also like a brother now.
WCT: So is it weird writing for him?
Tanya Saracho: Weird is not the wordit's fate. He got the pilot and I remember I was staying with him in New York for a week. When he got on the show we were so excited. I got the meeting to go on the untitled Michael Lannan project so I asked if that was the same pilot. He told me yes and to go for it. I said, "I can't write for gay boys and wouldn't know what to say."
Then I met Michael Lannan. He has dreamy blue eyes and a big beard. I had a book about this lesbian feminist Mexican nun from the 17th century. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is her name, and he knew who she was. I was sold!
WCT: I will look her up.
Tanya Saracho: I wrote a play for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about her. So they put me on the staff of Looking. I knew it was meant to be because of Raul's character. I am Mexican; I know Raul and how he talks. I could pitch things like having him play the bass since I grew up watching him play the bass. This season, I am playing his cousin in one episode.
WCT: You must have pushed your way in there.
Tanya Saracho: No, I had to audition! It was weird because I auditioned with my own words.
WCT: Did you take liberties with the dialogue at the audition?
Tanya Saracho: No, it was harder to learn the stuff that I had written. It was crazy.
WCT: Talk about being on the television hit show Girls.
Tanya Saracho: I was on Girls briefly before I was on Looking. It was the first time I had seen two women show-runners before; [they were] Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham. It was a dream. They led the work very beautifully and lovingly. It didn't feel like work.
WCT: You are living the dream.
Tanya Saracho: Yes, but I wish I could come home a little more.
WCT: Does your family live here?
Tanya Saracho: No, Mexico and the border. I don't see them ever.
WCT: This is a rarity that you are in Chicago.
Tanya Saracho: They brought me in for this event. I have had plays produced with Goodman. As an actor I have been on stage here, too. Back in my Chicago days, Goodman was my artistic home. I love it here. I was able to see my house for one day and I leave tomorrow for work.
WCT: Do you have an advice for writers in Chicago?
Tanya Saracho: Keep writing. You may get depressed and doubt. You may think it is not good enough, especially to women, we need our queer stories out there. Do you watch Transparent?
WCT: I do, and wrote my interview with Judith Light today.
Tanya Saracho: I worked with Jill Soloway on Looking last season a little bit. She is amazing.
WCT: What else do you have coming up?
Tanya Saracho: I sold something to HBO about queer border-girl stuff as a theme. There is also a play of mine that was just done at Second Stage in New York called Mala Hierba.
Right now we are shooting Looking so I played